Employees in South Korea enjoy little free time beyond work 

Despite a general shift towards a better work-life balance, employees in South Korea find themselves working longer hours than in other countries.
By: | July 19, 2023

Despite shifting workplace trends that focuses on healthier and more productive lifestyles, South Korea still lags behind other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries when it comes to work-life balance.

A research paper by the government-affiliated Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) showed that out of 31 OECD countries, employees in South Korea spent an average of 1,601 hours working annually in 2021, the highest recorded time across all the countries. 18.9% of the employees assessed also claim that they exceeded the maximum limit of 48 working hours per hour as recommended by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), more than twice the average of 31 countries at 7.4%.

The mean average time for leisure after work was measured at 258 minutes per day for South Korea, the shortest among all countries except for Portugal and Lithuania, which had 241 minutes and 247 minutes, respectively. Norway topped the charts, with employees enjoying 368 minutes of daily free time.

Han Joon, Sociology Professor at Yonsei University, said, “Our country’s efforts to improve the wellbeing of workers does not appear to have reached the sufficient level, although the government, management and labour unions altogether have been working hard in recent years.”

READ MORE: Employment among senior women grows in South Korea

He noted that the maximum limit of weekly working hours was legally reduced to 52 hours from 68 hours in 2018 during the previous president’s administration, and that rules on overtime hours were tightened to reduce exploitation, reported Korea Times.